Hopefully, you’ve had a wonderful and amazing boss who supports your work, encourages your ambition and guides you to a higher position. That would be awesome. It would also mean that your living in a Utopian dream world. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great bosses out there. But none of them are perfect. Even more than that, they’re all business people who have to act in their own self interest, which might put them at odds with your desired outcome for any given situation.
It’s a tricky relationship, because a good boss should understand that their advancement directly correlates to the promotion of their team. If you help hire and groom good employees, you’re normally given more opportunities to have a positive impact. If your team is seem as ineffectual and incompetent, people question the manager’s judgment and ability to lead. All of this is logical, but at the end of the day, most people will do anything to save their own ass. Some day, your boss may become just one of those people who needs look out for number one.
So what do you do if you’ve been thrown under the bus by your superior? Well first you need to examine the situation:
- Is this a recurring problem? Does your boss consistently blame errors on their subordinates? Sometimes, managers are put is a difficult situation. They might not be handling the situation the way you would, but if it’s the first time you’ve felt betrayed, it would help to give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Is this actually going to hurt your standing in the company? I’ve been known to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to criticism. It’s possible that your boss wasn’t trying to be as negative or dismissive as you took it. So if he vetoed your idea in the middle of a meeting, it could just be that he didn’t think it was the appropriate time to discuss it. Or maybe she reconsidered a position she stated to you previously, but forgot to mention it again. Either way, if no one else in the company knows or cares, it’s probably not worth stressing over.
- Does the boss do this to everyone? If a manager constantly undermines all of their employees, a higher-up will notice. It might not be worth it to stick your neck out and cause a disagreement before upper-management can make their move to correct the issue.
Alright, if you still have a serious issue on your hands, here are some tips for working with a boss whose made you their own personal scapegoat.
- Own up to any mistake that you make. You would be amazed how much people notice and respect accountable employees. If you make a name for yourself as someone who claims and fixes their mistakes, no one will be able to pin anything on you. I once had a customer tell me, “I know this isn’t your fault. If it was something you could control, you would’ve already emailed me about it and fixed it before even called.”
- Keep copies of written instruction. I hate to suggest that you’ll need evidence, but it’s nice to have just in case of a problem. If you save emails with detailed instructions, it’s hard for someone to get mad at you for following them.
- Address the problem privately. So your boss called you out in front of a group of people? Do not create a scene. You’ll just look like you can’t handle criticism. If your boss was out of line, they probably realize it. Handle the situation gracefully and then speak to your boss once your emotions have cooled down a bit. Don’t make it a personal problem, explain how it damages your credibility or ability to work with others in the team. Make it a productivity issue. There’s no guarantee that your boss is worried about your feelings.
And of course, once it’s all done, go home and whip out the Voodoo dolls and pins. No? Well at least have a long drink and whine to someone who will console and comfort you. There’s always another day and another boss.